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Hot Yoga…the Hard Way

Urban Sadhu Exploration May 2024

PYS 2.43 kāya-indriya-siddhiḥ aśuddhi-kṣayāt-tapasaḥ 

Meaning: Accomplishments in the body, mind, and senses are achieved through self-discipline, at which point impurities throughout are diminished. – Austin Sanderson 

Urban Sadhu Yoga is “hot yoga, the hard and old-fashioned way.” While modern “hot yoga” teachers simply turn up the a thermostat dial to heat a room for an asana class, the Urban Sadhu Yoga method attempts to apply ancient yogic wisdom in a modern context, reintegrating the physical, spiritual, and psychological attributes of the wisdom teachings for the modern spiritual sadhaka. Sadhaka is a Sanskrit word meaning “seeker” of yoga; a sadhaka is looking for more from the yogic practice than just a “good stretch” in a Turkish sauna.


Let’s be clear, there is only one yoga, but there are many brands of yoga, and only a few of those brands have a conscious methodology to achieve what the sincere sadhaka is seeking. Urban Sadhu Yoga is first and foremost a spiritual practice, emphasizing to the modern sadhaka that yoga requires a commitment to the practice of yoga sadhana. This is a journey that ends in enlightenment. It is something deeper than a physical exercise class in an artificially heated room.


The Sanskrit word tapa means “to heat” or “to glow.” Tapa can also refer to “testing the purity of gold by the means of heating.” Tapasah is the term that Sage Patanjali uses in his Yoga Sutras to refer to “the burning desire of self-discipline” needed if the yoga practice  is to lead to spiritual purification, which  can only come from the consistent and systematic practice of yoga sadhana. Pure gold  does not tarnish, rust, or decay. Through “self-discipline” and “burning desire” a yogi realizes in the end that the jiva-Atman (individual soul), like gold, does not tarnish, rust, or decay, because it is one with the Parma-Atman or Universal soul. The term purification is in fact an oxymoron, but to the unrealized individual who is identifying with the avidya (misidentification or ignorance) of the body, the soul could be viewed as dirty, unclean, and even sinful. Negative projections onto the jiva-Atman are little more than manifestations of Self-doubt.


This Self-doubt is why so many fundamental tapasah practices prescribed in Hatha Yoga tradition start with physical kriyas (cleanses) that focus on cleansing the  physical body with Shatkarma Kriyas (this includes enemas and neti pots), asanas (physical postures that are to be held for periods of time), and cleansing breath exercises (such as Kapalabhati, which is meant to remove stale air from the system). All are physical kriyas to build physical heat in the body. But these kriyas are just the first step to the spiritual practice of yoga sadhana.


Western yoga has promoted the practice of asana as a useful training program that can increase physical flexibility, mobility, and strength, and in the worst cases even promote weight loss. Add in an artificially heated room and you have the makings of a modern-day yoga brand that begins and ends with a shallow understanding of the yoga tradition. Few brands of this modern western yoga style incorporate deep meditation techniques into each and every asana class, and even fewer discuss the true aim of yoga, which is union with the God or Higher Self.


This is why the Urban Sadhu Yoga method is founded on the Six Pillars: sadhana, ahimsa, svadyaya, dhyana, aikyam, and dharma. These Six Pillars help to keep the modern sadhaka and the Urban Sadhu Yoga brand focused on its mission statement.


The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is clear when it states: rāja-yoghamajānantaḥ kevalaṃ haṭha-karmiṇaḥ etānabhyāsino manye prayāsa-phala-varjitān, or “Those who are ignorant of Raja Yoga and only practice Hatha Yoga will waste their energy fruitlessly and never reach the state of samadhi or yoga” (HYP 4.79). Raja Yoga, also known as Ashtanga Yoga, is the same eight-limbed system compiled by Patanjali. Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, and Japa Yoga are all parts of Raja Yoga. The end result of Raja Yoga is aikyam, which means “oneness,” “unity,” or “harmony” within and without. Aikyam and enlightenment are one and the same, realizing the “oneness of being.”


The identification with the body and mind and its fluctuations is identification with “ego,” and this constitutes the small self. The sadhaka seeking to experience a blissful state of yoga (meaning union with the Higher Self, Universal Consciousness, or God) dives deeper into the yoga practice beyond the physical and gets into the metaphysical. Through the intense practice of tapasah, the sadhaka realizes that they were never impure or separate from God. The tapasah practices help the seeker experience yoga by shifting identification from body, mind, thoughts, and feelings, toward the Divine Cosmic Self (Self-realization, God-realization, enlightenment, samadhi, or bliss). Tapasah burns away false identification and reveals to the seeker that the Self is like pure gold, incorruptible.


The method for achieving the state of realization of enlightenment takes tenacity, dedication, and a relentless practice of tapasah. One cannot achieve this state of Self-realization by simply turning up the thermostat and doing a lot of push-ups.

Austin Sanderson – Urban Sadhu


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